With forage shortages throughout much of the nation, farmers considering crops for prevented plant acres should look to alfalfa.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency, farmers have options when planting alfalfa on prevented plant acres.

They can plant it as a cover crop and manage it accordingly or they can plant it as a 2020 crop.

With the 2020 crop scenario, the farm can choose not to insure the alfalfa; insure it under a 2020 forage seeding policy; or insure it under a 2021 forage production policy.

Tons of benefits

Alfalfa provides much needed ground cover and many other beneficial attributes that should be considered when deciding what to plant on prevented plant acres.

Craig Sheaffer, a University of Minnesota forage agronomist, said it’s hard to find a crop better for the soil and environment than alfalfa. It provides the most protein-per-acre, reduces soil erosion and improves soil structure, moisture-holding capacity and nutrient content.

It also increases beneficial soil biota, suppresses weeds, provides habitat for beneficial predatory insects and wildlife and facilitates crop pollinators, Sheaffer said.

Sheaffer said alfalfa provides energy savings as well by adding nitrogen to the soil, reducing the need to apply fertilizer.

No restriction

There are no planting date or harvest restrictions if farmers plant alfalfa for 2020 production and choose not to insure the crop.

It is considered a first crop, regardless of insurance coverage, for the 2020 crop year. There will be no impact to the 2019 prevented plant payment.

Forage shortage

Considering the severe shortage of hay, crop farmers should look to plant alfalfa to provide high-quality forage early next spring, said Beth Nelson, president of the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance.

If a cutting is needed in fall 2019, farmers could consider forgoing the forage seeding insurance. In some areas of the country, farmers need to apply for a written agreement for a fall-seeded forage seeding policy, and should consult their crop insurance agent to establish the request.

For an Risk Management Agency FAQ on planting alfalfa on prevented plant acres, visit www.rma.usda.gov/News-Room/Frequently-Asked-Questions/Prevented-Planting-and-Alfalfa.